Tottenham Hotspur academy product Ryan Mason nets in the only goal, as Spurs scrape pasted Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. Dick Advocaat’s Sunderland look a shadow of the team that ensured survival late last season, as they slump to their third defeat in five games
Tottenham and Sunderland entered the game in the relegation zone, and at the end of ninety minutes, it wasn’t hard to see why. The lack of confidence from both sides was on full display at The Stadium of Light, as Ryan Mason’s late winner proved the only spark in a dull, boring contest on Wearside.
The match displayed the lack of preparation on Sunderland’s part as much as it did Spurs’ ineptitude. The match did however expose three main things
Sunderland’s dependance on Defoe is very worrying
Having sold Connor Wickham to Crystal Palace, the men in charge of the London club felt that replacing him with a 34 year old striker would be a perfect decision. Jermain Defoe, while possessing an uncanny habit of proving doubters wrong, had far too much to do against his former side. Classically, in his own way, Defoe rolled back the years to create chance after chance, all on his own. M’vila, Toivonen and Fabio Borini, all collectively failed to impose themselves on the game.
Their 71% passing accuracy and 44% possession was a telling statistic, as Sunderland rarely held on to the ball. Even when they did, they lost it just as fast. As a result, Defoe was choked for real service and support, leaving Sunderland without much options.
Dick Advocaat’s sensational managerial u-turn was celebrated by Sunderland fans unanimously. Now however, the manager looks short on confidence and seeming like he is unable to adjust his tactics. It took a late goal to spur his team back into action, as they should’ve displayed that vigour from the opening whistle.
Kane’s Jekyll and Hide form continues
Hurricane Harry Kane has been a shadow of the unstoppable force that captivated all of England last campaign. His frustrating outings for Tottenham Hotspur this time around has had cynics and critiques licking their lips, as many regarded Kane’s first season as an anomaly.
The Tottenham academy product has been profligate in front of goal for Spurs – an unfortunate situation for a team who have been increasingly dependent on his striking exploits.
The problem is exacerbated when one takes a look at Kane’s form for his country, for whom he has netted 4 goals in 3 games, including two in the last two. His movement has looked sharper, his positioning has been on point and his final product has been, at times, sublime. Why then, can he not replicate the same success for Tottenham? The problem is a real head-scratcher, and one that has more to do with the freedom or lack thereof that Kane is given.
It was a bit of a risky tactic to allow a twenty year old acres of space up front last season. It was however, a move that paid dividends as Kane was able to maraud through defences with the utmost freedom, making full use of his talents as both a dribbler and a skilled finisher.
The novelty of Kane however, is wearing off, and more and more teams are wising up to it.
Pochettino needs to bring stability, and for that he needs to change
Continuity and change are the biggest constants in the life of a footballing club. Teams and managers alike, have to accustom themselves to changing times and trends, lest they are rendered anachronistic by their own success. In the case of Tottenham Hotspur, Mauricio Pochettino has to strike the right balance between the two, in order to get the most out of his team.
The Spaniard’s side relied largely on the novelty of their young side, and the exploits of their talismanic front man to get through most of the last campaign. Investing a great deal of faith in Tottenham’s academy products, like Kane, Dier and Mason, was an encouraging sign. However, Totenham’s failure to buy quality talent during the summer may leave them short till January. Son Ming Heung, though incredibly talented, was bought at the last minute and without a pre-season. He will take some time to integrate into the first team as well as the Premier League.
The tactics and formation that Tottenham apply will have to undergo a change as well, as the 4-2-3-1 setup is proving to limit some of Tottenham’s brighter attacking talents. A single pivot, however defensively risky, would be a better option from Pochettino as it can provide more space for Tottenham’s wingers as well as room for Harry Kane to flourish.
Ryan Mason’s finish was the product of excellent team play, more readily associated with their bitter rivals Arsenal, proved that Spurs have the attacking quality to score and create chances.
The season will be a long and hard one for the North London side, but with the right tactics and consistency, Tottenham can strive to become the force that threatened the Top 4 again.